A Celebratory Night of Firsts!

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 22 June 2015


Following the customary introductions from Sergeant at Arms Paul and Club President Julie, our Toastmaster of the Evening Grant commenced proceedings with the theme of ‘firsts’,  in recognition of the number of people undertaking Toastmaster roles for the first time this evening – which included pretty-much everyone taking on a club role tonight!

Newby Table Topics Master Amira provided her fellow-Toastmasters with a range of questions on the theme of beauty and attractiveness. Her questions found the perfect balance between being straightforward enough to give speakers a fair chance to quickly think of a response, while also being imaginative enough to allow them to express their creative storytelling skills.

In response to the question ‘which is more important, physical attractiveness or intelligence’, Norman took a ‘middle of the road’ approach saying he was happy not to excel in either domain. Toastmasters who have observed Norman’s attention to detail and creative skills in solving practical construction and design problems – both within and outside the club – will appreciate the high level of intelligence he brings to these areas.

When asked to recount an occasion in which he had made a major effort to appear handsome, John began by describing the difference between his work and leisure attire – ably demonstrating the skilled strategy of using a sub-story to buy thinking time to develop a major story. John went on to describe making a magnificent effort for his wedding day by dressing in a kilt!

Visiting Toastmaster Sandi (from Epsom & Surbiton Speakers) used the question ‘is beauty is only skin deep’ to highlight the importance of inner qualities radiating from personality and personal character strengths.

Jacqui had no doubt how to answer her question ‘do women worry more about beauty than men’. Giving a beautifully animated description of her friend Bob visiting the local gym and performing only exercises in which he could see himself in front of the mirror, Jacqui humorously described the extent her male friends go to to enhance their attractiveness.

Last up was Kashmira who was asked what recommendations she would give to parents, the media and government in response to the findings that 87% of teenagers are unhappy with their body shape. Coming straight to the point, and delivering a very clear and coherent response, Kashmira described a recent TEDTalk in which the speaker observed that in a country that lacks democracy, one of the advantages was a lack of advertising resulting in higher levels of self-esteem in young people. A very persuasive response to a challenging question, which was particularly impressive as this was Kashmira’s first Table Topics speech.

Monica began the evening’s planned speeches with an educational talk ‘How to be a Distinguished Club’ explaining how individual success results in success for the club too. Her speech also covered the importance of club officer training, recruiting new members and submitting finances as ways of scoring points towards the Distinguished Presidents award, which Maidenhead have achieved for the last four years. As always, Monica’s speech was clear and well structured and presented, with a strong delivery.

Matthew’s speech, ‘To do or not to do’ highlighted the value of to-do lists. His speech emphasised three key themes: when to use lists; having a list is better than finishing it (as the CEO of Yahoo bears out, in a very appropriate quote); and lists as memory guides.

His evaluator Michael complimented Matthew on his overall improvement since an earlier evaluation. He loved Matthew’s vocal variety and the skilled use of the pause to gain emphasis and impact. Michael suggested varying speaking pace as a goal to work on for future speeches.

Next up was Jan with her icebreaker speech entitled ‘Use the Balloon’. In a very personal and courageous way, Jan described how fear (stemming from a horrendous car crash) had presented her with a tough challenge to overcome. Several attempts were unsuccessful for reasons beyond her control before eventually finding success through cognitive behavioural therapy. Indeed, Jan’s therapy was so successful that from being frightened to cross the road she eventually re-learnt to drive, and now enjoys challenging herself with off-road circuit driving. The powerful moral of her story is to reinterpret fear as excitement!

Her evaluator Richard beautifully captured the theme of her speech as a journey in confidence building. He began his evaluation with a quote about confidence, and reflected back to Jan the many positives that her speech contained including a clear structure, relaxed delivery and an important message.

Doreen‘s speech, ‘The Cart before the Horse’, demonstrated her full range of speaking skills. An attention grabbing opening, a Chinese accent, great vocal variety/animation, plenty of drama and a personal story, with a deep and meaningful psychological message. It is amazing how Doreen manages to squeeze so much into a 10 minute speaking slot! And the moral of the story? That our worth and value comes from within not through the approval of others – a message that Doreen has strongly integrated into her own life.

Her evaluator, Steve, gave a confident and clearly-structured appraisal in his customary natural and relaxed style. Steve it is an astute observer of the strengths and weaknesses of speeches, and is willing to share helpful feedback to encourage speakers to move onto the next level. His key challenge for Doreen this time was to dispense with notes.

Finally, the last speech of the evening was delivered by Nick. An advanced speech from the Persuasive Speaker manual ‘The Effective Salesman’, his speech was a showcase of a retail selling process, including a role-play designed to highlight selling skills in practise. Nick played the part of a wine shop retailer – ably supported by Steve, who had the lucky role of being the customer invited to taste one of the better wines from Nick ‘s collection, which he did seem to rather enjoy a bit too much!

As highlighted by Nick’s evaluator Lorraine, Nick controlled the sales process in a relaxed manner using natural questions and seamless transitions. She recognised that Nick established good empathy and credibility throughout, & concluded that this was the best role-play she’d ever seen at TMs!

The awards for the evening went to Jacqui for Best Table Topic, Steve for Best Evaluator and Doreen for Best Speech.

TME Grant, undertaking the role for the first time as we’ve said, co-ordinated the evening with confidence and assurance throughout and ensured the evening was run to the high standards of organisation that MSC has come to expect.

General Evaluator Tony gave feedback on each evaluator’s speech, and noticed how they’d each been so positive in their evaluations, also giving excellent recommendations. He also commented on Sgt at Arms Paul & Club President Julie’s natural charm and authenticity – noting that Paul thinks on his feet well, & uses humour, and that Julie’s wonderful welcoming smile acts as a beacon to our members to inspire them to feel relaxed and do well.

Grammarian Mike also gave an entertaining report of tonight’s ums, ahs and uses of grammar, and the usage of tonight’s word of the day ‘Altruism’, and fellow first-timer Honor did an excellent job running the all-important Timer lights with efficiency.

Our next club night will be in a few short days – Monday 29th June. Our TME is scheduled to be Lorraine looking forward to seeing you all there!  

Published by Steve Cann

I love music! I've also recorded & performed my own songs (& once played in a band) & sometimes attend open mic nights. I enjoy comedy club nights & rock gigs, & countryside walks/country pubs... & life's simple pleasures, such as relaxing with a great book. I love exploring London, & particularly pub walks - there's so many wonderful pubs in the metropolis that I didn't know existed before I started doing these... I never get tired of London. I enjoy meditation, keeping fit, yoga & staying in good shape - healthy body, healthy mind & all that. I'm always open to new experiences, & strive to live life mindfully - enjoying the present moment. I've more recently got into public speaking, becoming a Toastmaster - it's great fun, & an invaluable way of learning new skills & extra confidence.

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